Maybe I am one of the only ones feeling conflicted this Fourth of July as an American. It is tough to even articulate or know how best to put it. Perhaps you can chalk it up to the fact that I was born right at the cusp of the generation labeled “millennial’s.” As a result, I have been able to relate with two different generations without fully being able to identify solely with either. I also am officially registered as an “independent” politically as I can find points of commonality with both parties, but also points of significant divergence and disgust with each. Additionally, I look at current cultural events, clashes, issues, and controversies and can see merit in “both” sides concerns, while often not able to fully embrace some of the extremes I see playing out on either side.
For example, I am uncomfortable when I feel America is nearly worshiped, especially when it is considered almost “treasonous” in some circles to point out any flaws or call for reform (unless, of course, in keeping with our own political narrative). But I also feel uncomfortable when, as Americans, we cannot find any reason to take any pride in our country and want to burn it all down or point out only the “bad.” I feel torn in that I see the right often wants to hold on to white-washing history, glorifying the past, and not acknowledge any transgressions. At the same time, the left seems to want to rewrite history in such a way as to condemn it all, take out of context, and not learn from the good, the bad, and the ugly. History and people are complicated. Can we not learn from it all, appreciating the good, condemning the bad, and correcting what needs addressed?
I also admit that it bothers me the level of honor given in some American churches (that are conspicuously silent on other issues or not giving the same level of recognition to missionaries sacrificing their lives for the kingdom of God). But it also bothers me the lack of any honor given to the country in which we live and those in uniform or positions of authority.
Further, it is beyond wearisome to see endless social media posts condemning anyone not wearing masks (even one I saw asking God to help them love those who don’t), but also disappointing to see others mocking those who do and concerned only about their “rights.” How have masks become so controversially divisive that we walk away from long-term friendships and relationships and find it necessary to use it as a weapon against one another?
There is no doubt we are a very divided nation this Fourth of July in 2020. And I have no answers to offer in this post (not that I think will change anyone’s minds anyway!). Instead, I just want to acknowledge that this Fourth of July, I see a flag tattered and torn not by outside enemies, but its own citizens internally. I see hope, and I see despair. I see stains, and I see beauty. In this, I see a reflection of the paradox that lies within us as it’s people. We are a mixture, a mystery, a contradiction.
You may call that lazy, but I see it as honest. You may call me wishy-washy, but I call it balanced. You may call me uncommitted, but I see it as nuanced. You may call me a coward, but I see it as courage. I believe our extremes are unhelpful on either side. We do not need to stake our identity solely on being Americans. Still, neither do we need to disown and degrade everything about being an American. For all her people’s flaws, we also have our strengths. And for all our strengths, we also have our faults. Isn’t this after all the story of us all?